Netflix App on iPhone Review
The Netflix for iPhone app was released on August 26th, after having been available on the Apple iPad since the launch of that product. I, along with other Netflix subscribers, was really anticipating the release of the Netflix app as the majority of my media consumption these days comes directly from Netflix – usually streaming from my PS3 to the TV. Netflix’s popularity has soared in the last few years – as the Instant Watch library grows and many 3rd party devices/boxes/TVs are building in support for the device (Apple’s new Apple TV being just the latest).
The Netflix for iPhone App Review
Netflix on the iPhone comes in at 6.8 MB for the download and is a free download in the Apple app store. Or course, you need to be a paying Netflix subscriber to have access to the streaming content. One thing that is interesting is that there is no way to manage your DVD queue from within the app itself. The fact that this feature is lacking from the official app is puzzling to me – as there are multiple 3rd party apps out there that include this capability. It would be nice to be able to manage your queue from within this app – as I find that I manage my queue more from my phone than I do my home computer. It’s possible though, in the interest of pushing this app out, that they decided to leave this feature out for now. I like to see this feature come out in a future update though.
The interface is very straightforward and similar to the interface that you see on other platforms.
On the top of the home screen you can continue watching whatever movie/show your account last accessed. Directly underneath that is a category that seems customized to your interests based on previous viewing. Since my kids do a lot of the watching on our Netflix, I was presented with “Feel-good Talking-Animal TV Cartoons” (wow, what a specific category!). There are 3 options in this section and then the option to “view more” within this category. Below that was a category for “Political Dramas based on contemporary literature”, then “Critically acclaimed dark movies”, “Social and cultural documentaries” then 3 seperate section with 3 choices each of shows that are “Like” other movies/shows that I’ve recently watched. I’m not sure how Netflix determines how to pick these – but including all of these options generally gives the user something they’re going to like directly on the home screen, without the need to dig through the library or search. Below that is “Movies you’ll love”. Interesting note here: Weeds Season 1 was put in this section – Weeds shouldn’t be considered a “movie”. Then there is “New Arrivals: Movies” and “New Arrivals: TV”. Finally the last section is “Recently Watched” – way down at the bottom:
I would prefer to see the Recently Watched section at the top of the home screen instead of at the bottom as the recently watched section is usually where I go to first to make a selection.
The search function in the Netflix app is pretty run-of-the-mill. But that’s a good thing. Sometime you just watch to find a TV show quickly and easily, and the app allows you to do that in a no frills manner. Here is a search result for “Lost”:
Netflix presents your Instant Queue as you’d probably expect it to – from top to bottom. Navigating a long queue can be difficult, however, as there is no pagination of the queue or easy way to jump to the bottom of the queue. Contrasting this to the way the instant queue is presented on the Playstation 3, one only needs to hit the left arrow button once when you’re at the first item to move to the last item in the queue. Another thing that is missing in the Instant Queue screen is the lack of image thumbnails for each show on your instant queue.
The app doesn’t appear to yet be optimized for the iPhone 4′s retina screen – which is kind of a bummer. I have to imagine better graphics will be coming along somewhere in the future. I’m personally okay with it – as the whole idea where is to not be in the menu for that long but rather to get to your movie/show as soon as you can. The lack of retina display support doesn’t seem to hurt the actual video quality of the programs however.
The video quality of shows is very crisp and clear. I tested this and use it generally on a home WiFi network – and the quality seems top notch. When playing a show – the controls or minimal. Hitting the Done button stops your show and takes you back out to the menu. You can also pause the show, jump back 30 seconds, scrub through the timeline of the show and also full screen a show to remove the bars around the video. Note that the scrubbing is pretty no frills – you can’s see image representations of where in the movie/show you are at like you can on some other Netflix interfaces (PC/PS3, etc).
On a home WiFi connection the video started promptly for me on all my tests – generally within 10-12 seconds. A few times it was longer – not sure if that was on account of the app or my Internet connection. But it is definitely acceptable and comparable with other Instant Watch platforms.
When this app was released there was no support for video output the your TV. The update that just hit today, 10/5/10, does mention that this support has been added. I don’t currently have the cables to output on my TV so it’s not something that I can test or am even interested in personally at the moment. For those who do use this feature – I’d love to get your feedback on this in the comments below.
The Netflix iPhone app is definitely a welcome addition to the growing library of screens that can show Netflix Instant Watch movies. The app is great for what it gives you – an easy way to watch Netflix movies on your iPhone. The app is not without faults and has a lot of room for improvement (DVD queue management, retina display support, better scrubbing) but the lack of those things at this point doesn’t significantly hurt this app. I’d recommend is without question to any Netflix subscriber who has an iPhone. In fact – since the app is free it’s a no brainer.
Did you enjoy this review? Please, leave me some feedback in the comments on your experiences with the app – and also feel free to ask any questions.